Schenectady

Schenectady to test gunshot detection software

Part of the gunshot detection system earlier this year. Credit: Peter R. Barber/Staff Photographer
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Part of the gunshot detection system earlier this year. Credit: Peter R. Barber/Staff Photographer

Categories: News, Schenectady County

SCHENECTADY — If you hear shots fired Thursday morning in three city neighborhoods, don’t panic:

It’s just the city testing new gunshot detection technology.

Police will discharge three blank rounds Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. on Jefferson Street, Foster Avenue and Becker Street as part of the pilot project introducing the software.

Authorities will notify local residents beforehand, and will also inform the Schenectady County Unified Communications Center.

The rollout of the acoustical sensors follows a months-long delay after the City Council temporarily spiked $2 million in funding for the city’s Smart Cities effort, which aims to better leverage technology to deliver government services, including building out a municipal Wi-Fi network, swapping out street lights with LED units and using sensors to collect data on traffic patterns and emissions, among other applications.

Lawmakers reinstated the funds in the 2021 budget, which the City Council unanimously approved last month.

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The test project comes amid a violent summer that saw a dramatic uptick in gun violence in which shootings nearly doubled between January and August over last year’s numbers.

Five people were killed by gun fire in the city this year, accounting for all of the city’s homicides in 2020.

The sensors will be installed on National Grid light poles, where work is underway to swap out approximately 4,400 units with LED units, a measure that will bring cost and energy savings.

The technology triangulates gunfire to detect where the shooter was standing and “immediately alert law enforcement to the location of the detection,” according to the mayor’s office.

Officials have said the technology is important because not all shots fired are reported, and oftentimes authorities are unaware of a shooting until a victim shows up at the hospital.

City Police Chief Eric Clifford said the devices will also help with retrieving evidence, including shell casings, and will ideally be coupled with license plate readers over time.

And while the camera networks operated by the city and county District Attorney’s Office are not currently linked, Clifford envisions their eventual integration, a measure which would boost coverage by allowing cameras to pan to the source of the gunshot.

“It could possibly see the person or persons fleeing the area,” Clifford said in June.

One of the trial locations, Becker Street in the city’s Central State Street neighborhood, has been home to a particularly deadly spurt of gun violence.

A shooting in May left three injured, while a shooting at the corner of Becker and Linden streets took the life of Roscoe Foster in January 2019, a case that remains unsolved.

And just blocks away in front of Star Liquor on State Street, 22-year-old Albany resident Elnahcere Vincent was allegedly slain by Anibal Madera on Sept. 30.

“It’s a location that we’ve selected based on historical data,” Clifford said on Tuesday.

The sensors will be deployed in partnership with CIMCON Lighting, Sound Intelligence and Axis Communications.

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